As the faint twilight of morning started to be revealed, Argente woke up and rubbed her eyes with the back of her paw. For the first time in for what seemed like an eternity, she dreamt of the glowing female fox that resembled her deceased mother. The ethereal animal did not say anything, only looking at her, while her striped silver tail swished back and forth behind her occasionally. As Argente approached, her ghost like visitor turned and quickly ran up the mountain via a very specific path. It was almost too quick to see, but Argente made a point to try and remember as many details as she possibly could. However, almost as quickly as the dream began, it was over. The female fox woke up, and watched the night sky and its myriad of stars beginning to fade. The various noises of the surrounding jungles had died down, but did not cease completely.
The fox’s gaze wandered towards their large eagle friend from the day before. He was still asleep, with the occasional long brown feather shifting in the cool breeze that blew down from the mountain. Mary, their snow fox friend from back home, would have been pleased with the cooler temperature here due to the elevation. There had been a plan to help prep her for summer, by lessening her thick white coat of fur, but they left before it happened. Thoughts of their red panda friend and a pair of scissors crossed her mind, which made her giggle as Mary ran away in terror. Grinning outwardly, Argente continued to look around their makeshift camp, to see that their raven friend from the ship had joined as well. She was sitting on the top of the rock, nestled as well, with her eyes shut. Angeliki must have arrived some time after they had fallen asleep, the fox thought to herself.
While the jungle to the east blocked the view, the skies began to change colors into a very pale shade of blue as the sun continued its ascent. With each passing moment, the sounds of the jungles started to make themselves known more so, as the various animals within began to rise. This land was so very much different than the forests back home, with all manner of higher pitched calls coming from birds of unknown varieties in the treetop canopy. The strange cows from the day before, and the timid shrew rats, this island had wonders that were just beginning to reveal themselves. Some animal calls were long and shrill, while others low and guttural. The thought of the rising water ruining the island made the fox feel sad, and as she looked down at the sleeping hedgehog in front of her, she realized that this adventure was necessary. It was the first time that she ever had thought such a thing, having been very upset with her critter friend for a long time. The constant activity, the monster attacks, and all the related insanity was too much to bear at times.
While Argente silently pondered, she watched as the large eagle began to stir. Dave was the next to wake, with his pale blue eyes opening slowly to scan their general vicinity. He noticed the arrival of the black raven bird on top of the rock they had chosen to sleep beside. Then his gaze trailed downwards at the sleeping hedgehog. “Good morning, Dave, “the fox said quietly. The male eagle nodded, “good morning Argente. Did you sleep well?” The female fox nodded, and looked at him with an intense look from her brown eyes. The intensity was off putting to say the least, which resulted in an annoyed tone from the former human man, “what is it?” The eagle had made his assurances the day before, and he thought they had moved past the distrust. Apparently, Pudgy’s protector and fox friend thought otherwise.
Argente whispered, “I do not know you. But … Pudgy trusts you. He is a loving, happy, friendly hedgehog, and this is his nature. But if you harm him, I will keep him safe.” The eagle chirped softly, “I do not intend, nor wish harm on any of you. I can see you care for him a lot. I promise I am of no harm or ill will to you.” The fox nodded, “I will not bring this up again … Dave. We have an understanding.” With the tension high between the two animals, the raven chirped softly to draw their attention towards her. Angeliki chirped softly, “well that makes me feel a bit relieved that you two have come to an understanding.” The silver fox smiled at the demigoddess and motioned with her paw towards the Philippine eagle, “this is eagle is named Dave. We met him yesterday, and it would seem that he knows Pudgy. He was a user of that twitter thing our hedgehog friend used, apparently. Dave, this is Angeliki Raven, she is from our forest as well.” The eagle grinned at the raven, happy to meet a perhaps more friendly acquaintance of the hedgehog.
Angeliki waved her left wing, and chirped happily, “hello Dave, it is a pleasure to meet you. I think I may have chatted with you once before, did you used to live on another island to the north of here?” The Philippine eagle nodded, “yes … I lived near the capitol of our islands’ nation. You always spoke in old English, didn’t you?” The raven nodded, and as the tension lessened, the two birds started to laugh a bit louder. This in turn woke up their hedgehog friend, who sat up and wiggled his nose. Wiping the sleep away from his eyes with the back of his paws, he spoke while yawning, “good morning! What did Pudgy miss?” Argente giggled, “not much Pudgy. We all just woke up a couple moments ago. I had a visitor in my dream last night.” The little critter looked up at his fox friend, “did the ghost fox visit you too? Pudgy saw her run up the mountain, but it was all too quick, Pudgy couldn’t see the path she took exactly.” The two birds looked at each other, but noticing Argente nod her head. “The ghost fox as you call her, did the same in my dream. I was able to memorize some of the path, so that will help.”
Dave nodded with a curious look, “if I may ask a question, please? What is going on? I am glad to meet all of you, but it would seem something very wrong is occurring.” Pudgy looked up at the eagle, “Pudgy didn’t get to that part of story yet. Soo…” The raven motioned with her wing, “Pudgy … can you skip ahead a bit so we can bring our new friend up to speed quickly?” The little critter wiggled his nose and looked annoyed, because it would ruin the story, but nodded nonetheless. “A very bad monster attacked all the other animals around the United States and Canada. He destroyed the world chains, which hold up the ground from sinking into the water. He also destroyed the ley line nodes, which connect places to each other, and had cut off the animals from travelling within Gaia. Pudgy watched as Niagara Falls was obliterated, and the great lakes started to be destroyed and merge into one another. Animals are fleeing, and told Pudgy that the oceans are rising. We built a ship, to sail here, because a ghost fox said to come here. There is something on Mt. Apo that is of great importance.”
Argente nodded, “all the places Pudgy travelled through, under, or over have been destroyed Dave. The oceans have rose, and covered the land. We were able to sail our ship all the way through the United States, to reach the Pacific Ocean. The animals we met along the way; all speak of a great King in the Ocean. But they never go into further detail, and swim off before telling us the whole story.” Angeliki nodded, “I think the story of Noah is slowly starting to apply here. I know not the reason for this ghost’s request for Pudgy to come, but the animals of the forest gathered together, and worked to ensure this voyage would be of a success. Failure will result in the utter destruction of the surface world, and the oceans will cover all with their salty brine.” There was an uncomfortable silence amongst the group, for what seemed like an eternity.
The eagle nodded after a long pause, “I see, that truly does sound terrible. If the oceans have covered most of North America, that means they have raised hundreds of meters. Most of the islands that comprised my home were at or near sea level, which means …” Angeliki nodded, “they have been destroyed, then covered by salt water.” The former human man shut his eyes as he processed the words spoken, and quickly leapt into the air. With a tremendous flap of his wings, he quickly was airborne, and flew off towards the jungle. Argente sighed, “I think we should have let Pudgy tell the story slowly. Work up to the part where his home was destroyed …” The raven nodded, “perhaps, or it is better for him to know now. I suspect we will see him again, soon. For now … let us depart … as this is going to be a very long day.”
As Pudgy climbed up onto Argente’s back, he watched as she stood up. The fox started to pad quickly between the rocks, and attempted to follow the path the ethereal being took to reach the summit. The raven took flight, and flew up ahead to scout out the area. It was not long until the gentle rise of the land, turned into a steep slope. The ground was covered with rocks of all manner, but most were a dark gray. The little hedgehog could see that there were streaks of a brighter white within the rock, and it almost seemed to reflect or glint in the light. There were huge boulders strewn about, some as large as a car. While there were plants that had somehow managed to grown between the debris field, the land had all too quickly changed from a lush jungle, to a desert. In time though, the silver fox was able to find a path to travel, which made the ascent less challenging.
The hours passed, and the little hedgehog held onto his friend’s fur gently, and watched as the world passed by. Moving at hedgehog speed would have meant it would take months to get to this point, so he was very glad that she had insisted on coming. They approached a wide flat area, that was comprised of a huge basalt boulder having been worn down over many years of heavy rainfall. The rock was a much darker gray, and even had streaks of black mixed throughout is well worn surface. Despite its appearance, the texture was rough, almost like sandpaper. Argente stopped, and eased down to sit, which allowed Pudgy to slide off of her back. She needed to rest, which Pudgy knew and chose to not say anything. Unlike his previous adventures in the mountains, he noticed that he was not out of breath. The little critter pondered why, since usually the air thinned the higher one traveled into the sky.
In actuality, what had happened held more trouble for Gaia. As the water levels rose, and the lands disappeared, the water pushed the oxygenated atmosphere higher. The total height did not increase, but the air pressure equalized as it was displaced. The end result was that at the summit of the mountain, which the humans measured at 9,692 feet, the air pressure was the same as if one were at an altitude of half that amount. This also meant that the wildlife whom had adjusted to high altitude air levels, had to adjust to more pressure within their lungs. “HISSSSSSSSSSSSS…..” Argente’s ears perked up, and looked at her hedgehog friend. “Pudgy, get on my back now.” The little critter nodded, and started to climb up his friend’s silver fur covered leg, watching as a long yellow log started to move nearby. They had not seen the creature, since the top of its body was dark gray, like the basalt. Two eye slits opened up to reveal sickening pale green eyes.
“Hellooo…. Hissss ….. and who … might you two be?” As Pudgy reached the back of his fox friend, he could hear her speak with a sharp tone. “No one of importance, we are travelling to the summit.” The snake opened its mouth as it grinned, revealing two sharp fangs, that began to drip with venom. “I sssssseeeeee….. well …itt hassss been ssssoooo long since I ate. How about …you let me eat your sssspiky friend, and I let you be?” The fox shook her head, and quickly darted off. The snake quickly lunged out, and just missed her tail. The little hedgehog held on for dear life, as she ran as fast as her legs could carry. The snake slithered quickly behind them, hissing evilly. “Comessssss….back ….. jusssssstttt a nibble!” The snake was once called a Pelagic Sea Snake. Their kind was common to the coves and shoreline of the island. During a particularly bad typhon, the ocean waves had thrown him high into the air. The terrible winds thrust him high into the mountains, and the snake was trying to get back to the water. However, the strange fur covered animal was too quick, and was out of sight before he could lunge again.
The little hedgehog did not look, as he had his face buried into the dark fur that covered his friend’s back. He started to hear a chirping noise, and hesitantly looked up to see his raven friend flying overhead. The female fox had used up all of her energy, and needed to rest once again, and had stopped once again. This time, they were on top of a granite boulder. The little hedgehog hugged his fox friend, “you got us out of there in the nick of time, Argente!” The tired female fox nodded, and laid down as she gasped to catch her breath. Angeliki landed beside them, and folded her wings back. “My word, that snake was large. I think it was close to three feet long. Never in my life have I seen one like that, yellow on its belly, and gray black on top. Its body was too dense though to be able to quickly move. Plus, Argente has had much practice, getting out of hedgehog related adventure dangers.”
Pudgy wiggled his nose, and slid off his fox friend’s back, then started to hug her leg gently. The bird walked slowly around, so she could face them both. “I flew up ahead, and saw the rock fields continue all the way up to a large flat area. It is covered with short grass, small plants, but no trees. There is a lake that is surrounded on three sides. I do not see anything that would signify where we are to go, but I think that lake would be a good destination.” Argente nodded, “I agree … I am getting thirsty.” The little hedgehog started to undo his pack, which resulted in Argente placing a paw on his head. “No, you keep your water Pudgy, it would not be enough for me anyway.” Pudgy nodded at his furry friend before turning to look at the raven, “Angeliki … have you seen Dave flying?” The demigoddess nodded, “yes. He has been staying at a far distance away though. I suspect we will see him soon again.”
“I feel better now Pudgy. Angeliki, how much further to the lake you mentioned?” The silver fox asked, while starting to stand back up. “Not very far, perhaps another hour or two of climbing. There is indeed a path that heads in that direction, along with rusted metal posts. I think this was a walking trail, or climbing path for humans to follow up the mountain and back.” The hedgehog climbed back onto Argente’s back, and they started to travel once more. The black bird at first walked beside for a time, before taking flight once more to fly up towards the aforementioned lake at the near summit of the mountain. Both hedgehog and fox kept a look out for any more surprise visitors, but the higher they headed, the fewer signs of life they were seeing. The land only grew steeper and steeper as they went, with the fox climbing a near 50-to-60-degree angle upwards in many places.
The temperature cooled considerably, and soon they could see the clouds hanging low in the skies. The clouds in turn attracted a slight fog, as the moisture hung in the air. Just as their black bird friend had said though, the fields of white granite rocks, began to be covered with lichens and mosses. This meant that the rocks were slippery, and more treacherous. Yet onwards the two friends travelled, up ever steeping slopes. The land began to change colors from a sea of white, to pale browns, then faded green. As the fox tired, she was slowing down, panting once more. The air had finally begun to thin, and meant that one had to take an extra breath or two to breathe properly. The light of day was starting to fade, as the sun began to set behind the mountain’s peak. With the last bit of her strength, Argente powered through, and reached the very edge of the flat summit lands. She dropped down onto her belly panting, “made it …. Pudgy …”
The little hedgehog slid down her leg once more, and then scampered around to her head. Taking his backpack off, he began to undo the straps, and take out a large piece of hardtack. The fox was hungry, and opened her mouth. The little hedgehog tossed it into her mouth, and watched as his friend eat. It was not enough, she needed much more food than that, but it would suffice for now the critter thought to himself. As he tied his pack once more, the critter slung the straps over his shoulders, and looked around. In the distance were sparse green bushes, with leaves that almost looked like a pine tree. Scampering ahead, the little hedgehog climbed a small hill a short distance away, “Argente! Pudgy can see the lake!” As the raven had said, there was a lake surrounded by a steep mountain hillside on three sides. The ground was green, covered with a wide variety of short plants. As the little hedgehog stared ahead, a shadow passed overhead.
Looking up, Dave was circling overhead, and had his wide wings outstretched. The little hedgehog waved, before noticing that Argente was very slowly walking towards him. “I am so tired Pudgy, and thirsty … let us go to the lake.” Pudgy scampered beside his friend, down a very gentle slope , and right up to the water’s edge. The ground surrounding the water was soil, so that meant mud. As the little hedgehog looked around, he could see paw prints from a variety of animals. They led right up to the edge of the water, “looks like other animals have been here before to get a drink.” Turning his head from left to right and back again, Pudgy could see that this lake was about the size of the one back home just south of their town. “Boy …it would be nice to get the otters up here. They could sim out and explore the lake for us. But how would we get Pawl or Miller up here …” the critter trailed off.
Argente dipped her head down, and lowered her mouth into the water. It tasted fresh, so she began to drink. The water had a taste to it, but she didn’t think it was dangerous. The water almost tasted a bit … stagnant. The summit of the mountain did not get much in the way of rainfall, and due to the changes throughout the island, the lake was slowly evaporating off. What had once been a deep freshwater lake in a volcanic crater, was now a much shallower body of water. After taking a draw of water, the fox sat down, and curled her tail around her body. Her muscles burned, and she was very tired, but excited that they had reached their destination … perhaps? “I wonder if our ghost friend will appear again? For now, though Pudgy, I need to rest. Please do not wander off very far … I’m too tired.” She watched as her critter friend nod, and then reached his paw down to touch the water.
The water immediately turned black, and began to absorb the light into it. The scant light that remained of the day was squelched by a sheer void, that soon neither could see each other. The sounds of the world drained away, and only silence remained. As the little hedgehog rubbed his sides, he could no longer feel the wet mud on his paws. He was apparently floating, though occasionally he could feel his quills move from the wind. He was moving somewhere, but soon even that faint feeling disappeared. Pudgy was starting to panic, and looked wildly around, before calling out as loud as he could. “HELLLOOOO?” The word was spoken, and was quickly absorbed by the void. The temperature cooled considerably, causing him to shiver. The little hedgehog started to open his mouth again, but soon found it would not open. His quills began to move again, as his body began to be squeezed by a tremendous pressure.
He would have whimpered if he could, as the little hedgehog was now in a place terrifying to him. As his little eyes darted back and forth, trying to find any sign for life or where he was, in the distance there was something even darker than the void surrounding him. Within the darkness a floating orb faded into view, and began to glow with a deep magenta hue. The orb locked onto him, and stared through his body and almost directly into his soul. There continued to be no noise, only strengthening pressure on his tiny body. Crying out in paint, Pudgy felt water pouring down his throat, and it tasted salty. “HELP! HELP PUDGY! PLEASE, HELP PUDGY!” The little critter struggled, and started to see the creature, it had a cone like head with huge tentacle like arms that were stretching out in all directions. One was reaching out towards him, and the very edge of the suction cup covered arm began to wrap around his body.
The little critter tried to struggle, but he could not, and watched as the magenta orb drew closer and closer as the arm pulled him. Time passed, too agonizingly slow for his preferences, and the hedgehog watched the orb continue to stare forward. It did not blink, nor focus like a normal eye, only staring forward. Pudgy looked around, and could see that the magenta glow was all around him, with its light, he could see that whatever this creature was, he was tiny in comparison. The eye itself was at least ten Pudgy’s in diameter, or a little over 4 feet wide. The body of the creature had to be massive, but it was so hard to tell in the void of the darkness. The little hedgehog realized that once more, he had been summoned to deep under the ocean’s surface. But for what purpose, and who was this creature?”
Suddenly a blinding white light appeared, that chased away the void, and the magenta eye quickly darkened. The immense pressure was suddenly released, and soon the little critter could feel his body being thrust fast upwards. His quills were being involuntarily moved by the water, and the blinding white light. The world quickly returned, and he could see that his body was being grasped by two talons. A huge white feather covered leg appeared, with a very concerned expression from Dave the Philippine eagle. “PUDGY! PUDGY! Are you alright?” The little hedgehog was wheezing, and coughing hard. He had swallowed water, and had to get it out of his lungs. The eagle started to flap his wings hard, and then coasted over to where Argente and Angeliki were standing beside the lake. As the hedgehog was set down beside the silver fox, Dave released his grasp, and then landed nearby.
Argente was crying, “Pudgy! Please be ok …. Please be … ok? Pudgy!” The raven looked at her hedgehog friend, and then back at Argente. “What happened?!?!?!” The silver fox was incoherent, as she watched Pudgy cough up water. Dave strode over, “I am glad I spotted him as I flew overhead. I found him out in the center of the lake! How did he get all the way out there?” Angeliki nodded, “a very good question indeed! Pudgy …” The raven trailed off as she looked out into the lake water. As Dave turned, he could see the ethereal glowing white fox standing on the surface of the water. She was directly in the center, looking in their direction. Argente looked up and shouted at the ghostly fox, “DARN YOU, WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!” The white fox turned to look upwards, as the skies started to turn black. The stars began to fade away, and the moon disappeared.
As Pudgy weakly stood up, spitting salt water out of his mouth, he could see the silver feathers forming in the skies above. “Great …. Spirit …. Unetlanvhi is coming.” The two birds and fox looked at him, before turning back to look at the ethereal fox. She kept her eyes focused upwards towards the sky, which then drew their attention as well. The descriptions in the hedgehog’s stories did not do it justice, as the gigantic body of the Thunder Eagle became apparent. Each feather was glowing silver, and radiated with powerful light. The feathered chest appeared, and then soon arrived the white feather covered head of the eagle. The beak was the color of mithril silver, and golden glowing orbs locked down onto the crater lake of Mt. Apo’s summit. A familiar voice boomed from high above, “Pudgy Hedgehog … I see that you finally made it. Good work Shima Moyo, leading him here.”
The ethereal fox bowed her head, “Arigato …. Great Spirit Unetlanvhi.” As the hedgehog bowed as well, the other animals noticed the reverence being paid, so they bowed as well. The little hedgehog looked up, “Great Spirit … Pudgy was nearly drowned in lake … Pudgy was deep in ocean … Pudgy found strange creature … tentacles … and a magenta eye bigger than anything Pudgy ever saw. What is going on?” The Thunder Eagle floated in the skies above, and his golden orbs locked onto Pudgy’s eyes. “That is the being who calls himself the great king of the ocean. He seeks to destroy the surface world, and return everything to the time before the air breathers. When the world was under water, and his dominion was resolute. The humans would call the creature you saw, a giant squid I believe.”
As Pudgy listened he nodded, and remembered a show he watched with Cobalt a long time ago. The squid came up and attacked a submarine, nearly destroying the vessel. “Great Spirit, why is the world being covered by water? Pudgy thought you stopped Blood Fang before he could do anything terrible?” The Thunder Eagle’s voice boomed once again, “the extent of the damage caused by Hades was more destructive than I imagined. He destroyed many world chains and ley line nodes, that in order to preserve this world, I had to seal away their power. As such, the land which no longer has a connection to the sky has been sinking. However, in my anger, I miscalculated and pulled this world too far down. The snow-covered lands are now green, and then green lands are turning into desert. Ice is forming in places it has not formed for ages.”
The little critter nodded, “Pudgy home no longer has winter. It is summer time all the time now, which is very nice for Pudgy. But the winter animals are not good, and they are having a hard time adjusting. Is there a way to undo the damage, and to put the world back the way it was before Blood Fang did what he did?” The skies were quiet, and the Great Spirit floated as he looked down on the world. Minutes passed with no response, which filled every animal with worry. Until finally the Unetlanvhi spoke once more, “the damaged wrought by Hades can not be undone. While my anger got the better of me, and I acted too strongly, the overall effects on this world have not been too severe. The animals who perished, have been reborn elsewhere within the world. However, the false king beneath the ocean surface, threatens further damage that I can not ignore. He had taken measures to ensure the water levels keep rising, and without further mitigation, all land will be obliterated within a year.”
Pudgy nodded, “that is very bad! If all the land goes away, all the surface animals will be hurt. We can not breathe under the water, which means we will not be able to live anywhere!” The skyborne eagle nodded, “I will activate the ley lines once more, but only in specific areas of this world. Pudgy, you are already attuned to the node within your forest. I grant upon you, the power to activate the remaining nodes. As you activate each node, the land which it is part of will be protected from the waters. The so called great king, whomever he may be, will be powerless to counteract these efforts.” The little hedgehog bowed, “Pudgy thank you Great Spirit, Pudgy honored to do this for you. But Pudgy have question, where are the nodes?” Unetlanvhi’s voice began to change as he started to laugh, “you will not be alone in your mission. Shima Moyo will assist you, as she has been thus far in your adventure.”
The ethereal fox bowed, “I will do as you request, Great Spirit Unetlanvhi.” The Thunder Eagle began to fade from the skies, and in a matter of moments, the skies returned back to normal. The stars began to twinkle once more, and the moon reappeared. As Pudgy looked up into the sky, “goodbye! Pudgy hope to see you again soon Great Spirit!” The other animals looked at each other, then the sky, then back at each other, then at Pudgy in disbelief. Angeliki chirped as she laughed, “well then … it would appear this adventure just got longer.” Dave was standing frozen with unblinking eyes, as he processed the gigantic eagle’s sudden appearance as well as disappearance. Argente was staring at the ethereal fox, and watched as she was approaching. With every step, she was coming further and further into view, with details becoming present.
Shima Moyo reached the edge of the shoreline, and then waved her white glowing paw at the silver fox. “Hello Argente … it has been a long time. I expect you to have many questions.” The silver fox slowly approached and started to yell while crying, “YOU LEFT ME ALL ALONE FOR ALL THOSE YEARS! WHAT KIND OF A MOTHER ARE YOU?” The little hedgehog looked up at Argente, then at Shima Moyo, “you’re Argente’s momma?” The ethereal fox nodded, “I was … a very long time ago.” The little critter rubbed his eyes with his paws, and then watched as his fox friend approached the other fox hesitatingly. Angeliki held her breath, watching the anger fueled brown eyes of the silver fox burning. The group held their collective breath, as Argente let out a barrage of obscenities that the Great Spirit could not keep up to censor. The little hedgehog whimpered, because it was really scary when Argente was angry.